He executes justice [mishpat] for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. Psalms 146:7–9
The LORD your God … defends the cause [mishpat] of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the immigrant, giving him food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:17–18
It is striking to see how often God is introduced as the defender of these vulnerable groups. Don’t miss the significance of this. When people ask me, “How do you want to be introduced?” I usually propose they say, “This is Tim Keller, minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.” Of course I am many other things, but that is the main thing I spend my time doing in public life. Realize, then, how significant it is that the Biblical writers introduce God as “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalms 68:4–5). This is one of the main things he does in the world. He identifies with the powerless, he takes up their cause.
It is hard for us to understand how revolutionary this was in the ancient world. Sri Lankan scholar Vinoth Ramachandra calls this “scandalous justice.” He writes that in virtually all the ancient cultures of the world, the power of the gods was channeled through and identified with the elites of society, the kings, priests, and military captains, not the outcasts. To oppose the leaders of society, then, was to oppose the gods. “But here, in Israel’s rival vision,” it is not high-ranking males but “the orphan, the widow, and the stranger” with whom Yahweh takes his stand. His power is exercised in history for their empowerment.”20 So, from ancient times, the God of the Bible stood out from the gods of all other religions as a God on the side of the powerless, and of justice for the poor.
Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, 1st ed. (New York: Dutton, 2010), 1–2.
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